The term “preventative maintenance” applies to more than just your car. If you are following a regular exercise program, have a desk job or chasing your kids all over the yard then you probably have some aches and pains. It’s normal, especially if you just checked all three boxes. The key is addressing them before they become full-blown problems.
To stay ahead of the game we can implement a combination of self-care, warm-up and stretching modalities. Each modality has a role to play, and results can occur from just 10 minutes of work. Let’s discuss how and when to implement each of these modalities.
When a client reports that they’re dealing with some minor muscular or joint discomfort, one of the first things I suggest is SMR. When you employ SMR techniques, you are essentially giving yourself a massage, usually with help from a tool of some sort. A foam roller is one of the most ubiquitous SMR tools available, but balls, sticks and other implements may also be used. The idea, just like with massage (albeit quite a bit cheaper) is to release trigger points (aka knots) that develop in our muscles. By releasing these tightly contracted pockets of muscle tissue, we unlock greater movement potential and reduce pain.
Typically, when working on a trigger point you want to create pressure against the affected area. As you do, you may feel a sharp sensation. Allow the sensation to dissipate before finding another spot to target. If an area is very tender, control the amount of pressure you apply directly to the trigger point. Maintain normal breathing – the sensation should not be so strong that it takes your breath away.
SMR techniques may employed at any time. Pre- and post-workout are both excellent opportunities to utilize SMR, either to help prepare the body for your workout or to aid in recovery from it. Watching TV at home presents a great opportunity to use SMR, even for just 10 minutes. By taking the time to do a little self-directed massage, you’ll potentially prevent more serious pain down the road. While we have many ways to utilize SMR, I’ve included three of my favorite SMR techniques below:
Glute and Hip: Many people have some tenderness on the outside of their hip and glute area. We target these trigger points as depicted below:
IT Band: Our IT Band is a thick piece of connective tissue that runs along the outside of our leg from the hip to the knee. Anterior knee pain often stems from issues with the muscular attachments that affix to the IT band. Our goal here is to target those attachments to help remove stress from the knee.
Lower Back and Thoracic Spine: Trigger pointing isn’t always a pleasant experience, but rolling your back seems to feel pretty good.
*NOTE: If you’re dealing with back pain, you’ll probably find that the combination of these three techniques will help your symptoms. If the issue is more serious, consult your doctor.
Dynamic-warm up is our opportunity to prepare the body for exercise. Typically, we’ll take the body through a series of movements that mirrors the positions and ranges and motion required during our workout. Our goal is to stimulate blood flow, lubricate the joints and fire up the nervous system. Doing so increases the quality of the workout, while reducing the risk of injury from overworking the muscles before they’re ready.
A dynamic warm-up doesn’t have to take a long time. 5-10 minutes at the start of a workout is usually sufficient. Listen to your body – if you need additional time use it. Typically, my dynamic warm-up takes about 10 minutes and includes sagittal, frontal and transverse movements. I’ll round out my warm-up with higher velocity movements like skips, bounds and jumps. By the time I’m finished, I’ve got a little sweat going and I’m primed to start the workout.
Here’s a sample dynamic series you can throw in before your workout:
Walking Knee Hugs x 10 yards
Walking Quad Stretch x 10 yards
Shin Grabs x 10 yards
Walking Lunge with Reach x 10 yards
Lateral Lunge x 8/side
Shoulder Sweeps x 8/side
If you’re really pressed for time, the Alternating Lunge with Reach and Push-up is a great catch-all movement can address many joints at once:
While dynamic warm-up is designed to get your body primed for movement, static stretching actually depresses your nervous system. I’ll often see people spending time on static stretching before they work out, but with few exceptions, doing so actually might harm your workout quality. You’re much better served saving these stretches as part of a 5-10 minute cool down when you’re done.
One exception are the hip flexors. Tight hip-flexors, usually from sitting, can reduce movement quality and performance. Stretches like the half-kneeling stretch shown below are good to utilize, before or during a workout, to help improve movement quality, especially during squats and lunges.
By taking care of your body with a combination of SMR, dynamic warm-up and static stretching you’ll feel better and improve the quality of your workouts. Find 10 minutes before and after your workout, as well as at home to address minor concerns before they turn into major problems.
At Vitalifit, our exercise programs include complete warm-up and cool down instructions and videos. If you struggle with nagging pain, we’re here to help – simply contact us with questions. If you’re looking to incorporate a more structured strength training program and would like guidance, please check out our Vitalifit Coaching Programs and choose the one that’s right for you.